The AAO-BVPPO “Rat Pack”

The American Academy of Optometry’s (AAO) Section on Binocular Vision & Perception (BVP) was established in 1971.  As told in its history  here, Drs. Nathan Flax, William Ludlam, and Harold Solan served on the Section’s first Diplomate examination committee.  In 1999 the track on Pediatric Optometry was added, and the Section became the BVPPO, A Research portal to Diplomacy was added as well.  A list of current Diplomates can be found here.  In 2012 a Diplomate Prep Course was added as a preliminary to the Academy’s Annual Meeting to prime the interest of candidates considering the pursuit of Diplomate status.

When Dr. John Tassinari (“JT”) contacted me to ask if I’d give a two hour lecture on Visual Information Processing to the Prep Course prior to this year’s meeting in Anaheim, I realized that it would be short flight over from Scottsdale where we’re spending the month. I don’t do well with long flights and short turnarounds, so the one hour hop to John Wayne airport in Santa Ana was attractive.


I want to publicly thank JT for the prompt to do the lecture.  It was a throughly enjoyable experience interacting with attendees in this format.  We reviewed the historical context for how models of VIP were put together, some of which were covered in a  JBO article in 2012.  This paved a foundation for looking at an array of therapeutic procedures and how they were derived.  I also had the pleasure of staying on for a couple of hours after my lecture, and listening to JT give a superb lecture on BV and Disease Masquerades.


Aside from all the benefits of interacting with such a highly motivated and knowledgable group, my lecture was an opportunity to give attendees a perspective of what is now the 35th anniversary of the BVPPO version of “The Rat Pack”.

It dates back to the late 1970s, when Dr. Bruce Wick personally reached out to four young optometrists that he targeted as prime candidates for the Diplomate examination: Rick London, Mike Rouse, Julie Ryan, and me.  He advise that we would have to push ourselves beyond our comfort levels.  My mentors were Drs. Jack Richman and Lou Hoffman, and they advised me that I had to be prepared to not only demonstrate how I treated patients, but to be conversant with how others approached patient care in the key content areas of the examination process.  I was too young to realize what I was taking on, so I signed up to take the Fellowship Exam for COVD in November of 1981 and the Academy Diplomate Exam the following month.

I penned a letter a few days after finishing that I sent to Bruce, summarizing my feelings about how valuable the process was in terms of personal and professional growth.  As I recall he distributed or published it at the the time.  My copy of it is gone, but the warm feelings I have about the camaraderie and the process remain.  Much has changed in and about us through the subsequent years, and Mike is sadly no longer with us, but preparing for and presenting this course brought back some very fond memories and an opportunity to look at how our field has evolved.  Hopefully it served as an impetus for personal and professional growth in others as well.

4 thoughts on “The AAO-BVPPO “Rat Pack”

  1. The course was great, Len, well worth flying in a day early for. When I took the diplomate exam in 1984, the oral exam felt more like a hazing, what with Bruce Wick, Jack Richman, Bill Ludlam, and Lou Hoffman as examiners. Still, as you mention, they demanded we be able to explain not only how we handle a patient, but how other approaches may be used to handle a patient. This was the major difference between my diplomate and COVD exams. COVD required that we have one workable way to help patients, that we could feel safe in referring a patient to a COVD Fellow. The Academy wanted us to be aware of many different approaches. Sure, the Academy was more classically than behaviorally oriented, but Bill and Lou were hardly ignorant of what was out there. Getting through the grilling that evening is still one of the things that makes me proudest of my path.

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